Thursday, June 14, 2007

Run this.

"She has survived the hard life. But the story of her oppression and her resistance is not on the screen.” - Norman K. Denzin

Running away is not the answer. Neither is making money off of real womens' painful memories and experiences.

(I was reminded of this short essay I wrote when a friend referenced this video & Ludacris at an Open Mic Nite.)

In the video, Ludacris and MJB attempt to shed light on issues of runaway youth. This music video promotes social consciousness and awareness about sexual violence, rape, suicide, poverty, women’s issues, homelessness, abuse, drugs and alcohol. At the same time, the music video produces images of helpless females in dire need of a present but absent authority figure. The authority figure is present because they are shown in the video, yet they are also absent because of the manner in which Ludacris describes their lack of involvement in their children’s lives. The three girls, with three different stories, are described by what is deemed as strife caused by an absence of a loved one.

The images shown are problematic in conjunction with the lyrics. Ludacris is speaking from a male’s perspective and reduces the lives of these women to troubled, shattered and scarred lives. Ludacris raps about Little Lisa’s mother with a drug addiction that sleeps around with different men and also ignores her whenever she attempts to speak with her. This image reinforces the master narrative that privileges a male storyteller in a way that stereotypes women living in urban cities as helpless or needing immediate help. In telling the story of a little girl neglected by her mother, this reinforces the idea that single women are unable to take care of their children.

The second story that Ludacris tells centers around ten-year old Little Nicole who is abused by an alcoholic stepfather and only completely understood by her best friend named Stacy. Unfortunately, Lil’ Stacy dies from a drive-by shooting and Nicole is left in the world to fend for herself. Stacy, as the first young black girl that the audience is introduced to, is the first and only girl that gets killed in this story. Stacy is portrayed as the first youth that is competent and understanding, but is the first one that is targeted to die. In addition, Nicole is a young white girl. It is interesting that the young black girl is the one who is situated to understand Nicole’s abuse. The way in which Ludacris enunciates ‘Little (Nicole)’ from ‘Lil’ (Stacy)’ not only creates a rift in language, but is seemingly purposely done to represent the differences between the two young girls in terms of cultural background and language to denote privilege, class and unequal power relations.

The third and final story told through the eyes and voice of Ludacris is about Little Erica. Suicidal Erica is in love with an older boy who leave her impregnated and decides that he is not ready to become a father. Erica doesn’t have enough money for an abortion, as if it is the only way out of her misery, and decides to runaway instead of telling her mother about the pregnancy. The video shows that her decisions are made out of consequence rather than rationality or choice. Erica is a young black girl that seems to evoke a different kind of moral issue. Her story is told as if this kind of choice was preventable and that this was a problem that she brought on herself, whereas, the other little white girls in the video experience types of violence that are brought onto them.

This song and video maintains dominant forces of patriarchal hegemony. Each little girl in the video is affected by a male figure. The song allows the depicted little girls to act out of fear and irrationality thus justifying running away. Because positive males are absent, their lives are even more broken and their futures are even more insecure. Lacking a man in a family signifies lacking familial coherence and inevitably facing problems of the urban poor. These images that show that black people cause their own problems, which are reinforced in this video. At the same time, this video deviates from the master narrative in that the problems of the urban city are being promoted as issues that should be society’s concern.


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"The N Word"

Inspired by Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. It's a classic, please believe it. I also recommend You Bring Out the Mexican In Me if you haven't read it or been inspired by her work already. I'm constantly trying to figure out what this blog is for. And another reason is that I'm trying to create a space for myself that allows me to grow as a writer. Here goes...

The N Word

My best friend Lola was African-American. She taught me a lot about why white people and black people didn’t get along, even though in school we always learned about white people freeing black people and other colored people. The stupid boys in the class would say that Lola always wrote about African-American history. I never got to learn about Filipino history in my elementary school textbooks. I would always only ever find one small paragraph at a time about the Philippines and the war they were in. I can’t really remember which one it was. But Lola was lucky because she got to learn about African-Americans during Black History Month or once when our fifth grade class got to see a play about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember that play because Lola was mad when the actors asked the audience to pretend that a character was supposed to be black when they wore a black cloth around their necks and that a character was white when they wore a white cloth around their neck. Black people’s skin is not black. They should be wearing brown, Lola said. I agreed but I was still confused.

Me and Lola and the other girls in our fifth grade class used to bring our lunches to school in our Arctic Zone lunch packs. We used to eat inside with the other kids who got free lunches, but I told my mom that it was easier for me to be with my friends if I just brought my lunch to school. The kids who brought their lunches were only allowed to eat on the benches outside in the sun and since those benches were filled with people we barely knew, we decided to sit on the ground and have a picnic-style lunch. Lola and I always ate lunch with Melissa, Ruben, Katie, Jenna, Alex and Corina.

Katie and Jenna were the leaders of our group. They didn’t live in our neighborhood and their parents were always able to pick them up right after school. Sometimes Jenna’s mom would eat lunch with us. Katie and Jenna always got us together to hang out and get ice cream together during lunch time and we would always follow them. The one time no one ever followed them but followed Lola and I was when Jenna called Lola the N word for no reason at all when they were playing together. I guess Jenna got mad at Lola, but that doesn’t give her the right to say that word. Didn’t she pay attention when we were learning history? That word was not supposed to be used anymore. I hope she got in trouble with her mom.

All of our friends huddled and hugged Lola because we wanted to comfort her and stop her from crying. That was the first time I had ever seen my best friend cry! It was as if the world stopped spinning and my heart stopped beating because I always just knew that Lola was such a strong girl. Everyone else knew it too.


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

spread the word.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Before I go crazy...

This isn't something I've researched (yet) or something that is completely inexplicable. This is something big. Like BIG. Like super unimaginably big. Or BIG. Whatever, you get it, this is important.

Lately, I find myself stumbling and second guessing my words. Not because I don't know what to say or because I'm just so inarticulate or because I may need a moment to think. I have a million things going through my mind at any one moment.

So what happens when what comes out of mouth isn't what's going through mind? (This is the "main point" if you don't take anything else away from this post.)

Sometimes the phrase "words are not enough" definitely holds true, but that's just it! That's it! It. I-T. That's the very thing (ambiguous word) that plagues me about language, communication, etymology, semantics, vocabulary, etc. The way that we communicate and live is un-whatever I think. Because then I find that the physical just can't compete or catch up. You know what, though? This blog doesn't even scratch the surface of the surface of the title of the topic that is bothering me. Bothering isn't even the word I'm looking for, yet it comes close to this struggle (also not the word I'm looking for) that

(left unfinished on purpose)

Language is not a definite thing. I-T's not. We attach meanings to make sense and make patterns to form comfort. SO if you ask me why something is or why it exists expecting to fRom-ulate expectations and purpose foRm my words, then I really can't relay the UTMOST confusion I experience/go through/process/live/create/interpret/see. Synonyms are another story. And stories are another paradigm.

I'm about to pull my hair out over this. And please don't think "Oh, I know what you mean" because you really, REALLY, real-ly, re-ally don't.



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